Walker Defies Court Order, Locks Out Public
Defying a court order, Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) has locked out most of the public from his budget speech delivered at the state capitol where he announced $4.2 billion in cuts.
Since unleashing his scheme to strip public sector unions of their collective bargaining rights, there have been thousands of protesters at the capitol in Madison around the clock. Crowds crested on Saturday, Feb. 19th and Saturday Feb. 26th at between 70-150,000, and there has been a 24 hour presence inside the capitol building.
Gov. Walker ordered Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs to clear out the capitol on Sunday, February 26th under the guise of “building cleaning”, and while many protesters left, others stayed firmly planted in the building. Tubbs stated that no demonstrators would be arrested as long as they continue to obey the law.
In a letter Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin urged DOA Secretary Michael Huebsch to open the statehouse to the public. “Prohibiting protestors on either side of the debate from entering the Capitol during normal business hours or during legislative hearings or sessions, while allowing others with ‘business’ in the Capitol to enter, is manifestly content-based and, hence presumptively unconstitutional,” read the letter. –Wisconsin State Journal
Regardless, following Sunday at 4pm, nobody from the public was allowed to enter the premises, so the few holdouts could not get relief. The AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and the Wisconsin State Employees Union filed an injuction suit against the state of Wisconsin to demand the capitol be reopened to the public. Today, Judge Daniel Moeser issued a restraining order on the closure, and ordered the building reopened to the public, writing:
Resp. shall open the Wisconsin Capitol to members of the public during business hours and at times when governmental matters, such as hearings, listening sessions and court arguments are being conducted. This ex parte restraining order is in effect until the assigned trial court is able to schedule a hearing on the matter. If resp. wishes to have a hearing with respect to this order one will be scheduled as soon as possible before this court, the duty judge, if the assigned trial court is unable to hear the matter promptly. Pet. shall immediately serve a copy of this order on resp.
After initially denying receipt of said court order, the Dept. Of Administration (DOA) . “In a statement later in the morning, the DOA acknowledged receiving a copy of the ruling but said its existing policies are in compliance with this order.”
Security remained very tight, and access restricted throughout the afternoon.
There were unconfirmed reports on Twitter that while the general public and protesters were denied access, Republican loyalists and some Tea Party members were allowed entry through an access tunnel to give the illusion of popular support for Gov. Walker’s proposal, despite a majority backing unions.